Coming back from vacation and catching up on what my portfolio companies announced last week is often fun. Three companies – NewsGator, FeedBurner, and Rally Software were particularly active last week.
NewsGator led the charge with a bunch of announcements including mobile stuff (the acquisition of Smartfeed and a J2ME aggregator), the public NetNewsWire 2.1 Beta, a very close to final FeedDemon 2.0 Beta, synchronization with Windows Vista and IE 7, and the launch of a private label newsreader with Newsweek.
FeedBurner was also part of the Newsweek announcement as they will be providing management for Newsweek’s feeds along with incorporating FeedBurner services such as FeedFlare. Technorati was also listed in this release as they’ve been working with Newsweek since last summer. I’m gonna make sure I renew my subscription to Newsweek to express my appreciation (yes – the irony is intentional.)
My friends at Rally Software – who happily count NewsGator as a customer (how else could NewsGator iterate on so many products so quickly) – won the 16th Annual Jolt Product Excellent Award. I normally don’t get excited about awards, but I like ones that are named after over caffeinated sodas (I’ve always preferred Jolt over Mountain Dew), even if they are intended for products that have “jolted the industry by helping to create faster, easier and more efficient software.” To finish things off, Rally also announced that they are working with Scrum co-founder Jeff Sutherland to teach Advanced Scrum courses. No – this has nothing to do with rugby.
I’m back from vacation and blogging again. Of course, the easy stuff is the funny stuff that ended up in my inbox last week.
I have a great home office and love working out of it. When I saw this, I couldn’t help but crack up. The only thing missing is the wireless laptop on the couch.
Several months ago I wrote a post on the best corporate structure for an early stage company. I followed it up with a post on S-Corp’s vs. LLC’s. There were some good comments and these posts generated plenty of questions.
The other day I got a note from a reader (a lawyer no less) who pointed out that there were several changes on 8/1/05 to Section 265 of DCGL (Delaware Corporate General Law for those of you not up on your legal acronyms) that allow for two important “innovations” in the area of “entity conversions” (yeah – exciting – I know – but important for all you entrepreneurs out there wrestling with where to incorporate and what type of entity you should have.)
The first innovation creates a simpler process for the reincorporation of non-Delaware corporations in Delaware (through a one-step “conversion” rather than through the traditional but cumbersome reverse merger of the non-Delaware corporation into a wholly-owned Delaware sub.) In English – if you are incorporated in a state other than Delaware and want to reincorporate in Delaware – it’s now a lot easier.
The second innovation allows for the one-step conversion of non-Delaware limited liability companies into Delaware corporations. These conversions/reincorporations have historically required 2 steps – for instance, an Ohio LLC would be merged into a newly-formed Delaware LLC, and then that Delaware LLC would be converted into a Delaware corporation. Now you can go from an Ohio LLC to a Delaware corporation in one step. This eliminates one of my main objections to LLC’s that I wrote about in S-Corp’s vs. LLC’s.
As always, please road test this with your lawyer. I’m just a guy that doesn’t ever make legal recommendations.
As part of my fantabulous week off, I caught up on some reading that had been sitting in my “to read” email folder.
Nine months ago I posted a chart of the top large cap M&A buyers from 2004 through spring 2005. I thought I’d revisit this list with the top 16 technology acquirers from 2003 through January 2006 courtesy of America’s Growth Capital. The companies are listed in order of acquisitiveness with the number of acquisitions over the period listed in ( )’s.
When you extend the period and include the balance of 2005, SAP, Sun, and Juniper fall of the previous list. In addition, there’s been plenty of M&A activity in February and March to date (e.g. Google acquiring Writely and Boulder’s very own @Last) which reshuffles things a little in the middle of the pack.
I spent 90 minutes in the Boulder County Justice Center last Friday. Yeah – it’s a beautiful building in an incredible setting. But – what goes on inside isn’t so beautiful. And – it’s definitely not what you see on Law and Order.
I have a story about a former running coach of mine who is now serving a long jail sentence. Someday I’ll feel like writing the entire story – it has some amazing twists and turns that – in hindsight – are instructive and enlightening. It was also my first real experience with a convicted felon and – as a result – I had to rethink a lot of my biases, fears, and preconceived notions about how justice works in this country.
Last Friday was emotionally difficult. I went to the sentencing hearing for Mr. Coach at the request of his lawyer. She was looking for several people to speak on behalf of Coach – he had already pled to new felony charges and was facing 8 to 16 years (it turns out that he’d been previously convicted for five previous felonies – all for similar check and bank fraud claims.) His lawyer was hoping for a sentence of 8 years, even though she admitted that nothing had gone Coach’s way in this case.
I’d never been to the Boulder Justice Center before. Amy had when she served jury duty and she warned me to be ready for an awkward feeling experience in the beauty of the Boulder Flatirons. I’d been to the Jefferson County Courthouse a number of times during my successful efforts to help defeat a proposal for supertowers on Eldorado Mountain. The Boulder Justice Center – like the Jefferson County Courthouse – is externally beautiful, internally well done, but with a patina of discomfort everywhere.
I went through security and wandered through the halls looking for the courtroom for the sentencing hearing. I found the room, entered, and sat down on one of the long, lonely benches. Coach hadn’t been brought in yet, so I sat and watched three other sentencing hearings. The courtroom was overmiked so you could hear every conversation that was occurring, which often was as many as four at a time. The judge – a middle-aged woman who exuded competence and control – settled everyone down and called the first case.
A well dressed man and his lawyer walked to the podium. The judge addressed him, reading out his charges, which included stalking his ex-wife, harassing her, and breaking a restraining order. The attorney whispered urgently in the man’s ear, clearly calming him down as you could see the man’s face flush. The judge then walked through the plea agreement, which included a three year suspended sentence, probation, and another restraining order. She asked several formal legal questions which he agreed to. She asked if he had any questions. A series of emotional questions from the man followed, which insinuated that the ex-wife was having difficulty living up to her end of the custody agreement. The judge admonished the man – asserting that this was about him, not his ex-wife. There was a long pause, some discussion with the attorney, at which point the emotional man managed to tearfully agree. The judge pronounced the sentence and closed the case. The man walked out of the courtroom with his head hung low, staring at the ground.
Next up was a very overweight woman loudly dressed (always a sight for the chronically over-fit town of Boulder.) I had trouble understanding the situation, but it had something to do with a DUI, underpaid restitution from a previous conviction, and some current issue that was unclear. The woman was very emotional, but articulate, explained that she knew she had done wrong in the past, but was now working full time, going to therapy, taking care of two kids as a single mother, and going to AA meetings. Her boss came up and spoke on her behalf – it was clear that she was trying hard to hold it together. She admitted that she had gotten behind on the restitution payments, but was now paying $100 / month which was as much as she could afford (she was making $500 / week at her 40 hour / week job – remember – two kids.) The DA then asked for her sentence to be amended to include 80 additional hours of community service in exchange for the missed restitution. The judge looked thoughtfully at the woman, told her she was doing a good job, looked at the DA, told her that she would much rather have the loudly dressed woman working full time, and praised her for her efforts. The judge reiterated – for the record – that the minimum monthly restitution payment should continue to be $100 until it was fully paid (there was still $8,400 remaining to be paid) – and closed the case.
The judge took a ten minute break as we waited for the DA to show up for the next case. The judge returned and – after some confusion – discovered that the person to be sentenced “was missing.” It took a little while to figure out where he was – it turned out that he’d been transferred from one jail to a different one earlier in the week. Chaos ensued for a little while longer, at which point the judge decided to ice things until Monday.
By the point Coach had been brought into the courtroom. He was handcuffed, accompanied by an armed (and very intimidating looking) guard, and wearing Boulder County prison whites. He was seated in an area away from us, but looked over and mouthed a “thank you for coming” to the people that were there for him. The last time I saw him was about nine months ago when I last visited him at the Boulder County Jail – he looked unchanged. The judge eventually called his case. There was some procedural stuff between Coach’s attorney, the judge, and the DA as this judge was new to the case and Coach’s attorney wanted to delay the sentencing until the judge that had been involved in the rest of the case could preside (she was unexpectedly out that day.) The judge declined – stating she was up to speed on the case and was comfortable determining the sentence. Coach’s attorney made her statement and then called four of us up to speak on his behalf. I went last and followed the other three with acknowledgment that Coach had done many things wrong, had deceived many people, but had been a dedicated coach and we’d seen plenty of good in him. All of us requested that the judge consider being lenient – which in this case meant a sentence of 8 years instead of up to 16 years. The DA then spoke, stating that Coach was a bad guy, demonstrated chronic deceit, had repeatedly done the same bad things over and over in his life, and deserved 15 to 16 years. Coach then spoke, addressing the judge directly, apologized for his actions, explained that he knew he was wrong and deserved whatever he got, had been trying hard to do right, but had gotten overwhelmed and didn’t know how to ask for help. Mixed in all of this was a lot of discussion of a relatively recent diagnosis of bipolar disorder along with the accompanying medication and therapy, which – according to Coach and his attorney – had shown a marked change in his attitude, behavior, and perception.
Coach sat down and the judge addressed all of us. The basic message was “while you have seen the good in Coach, you’ve been fortunate to not see the bad in Coach. This is a man who has habitually deceived people through his life – he is a con-man, a flim-flam man. While the bipolar disorder may have an impact, this doesn’t excuse his behavior.” She said a few more things, which I interpreted as implying that those of us supporting Coach – while nice – were naive. She then sentenced him to 12 years.
Coach – head down – was walked out of the courtroom. We stood and walked out into the hall. The group of us gathered around Coach’s attorney, who had tears in her eyes. She told us that this felt like the first case she’d ever had where a client was sentenced to jail – the prosecutor – and older man – came up to her and said “honey – you’ll get used to it.” She said she never has, and this one was harder than so many others because she didn’t feel that Coach deserved this sentence.
I wandered out of the courthouse, got in my car, and slowly drove home.
I’ve been on vacation this week from everything remotely work related – including all electronic forms such as email, phone, blog reading, and blogging. Amy and I take a week once every quarter where I “go dark.” A few people know how to find me if there’s an emergency, but they do their best to protect me from myself.
We were originally planning to go to the Bahamas for a week but I came down with a cold last Thursday. We punted our trip for a few days and then – after realizing how much we love being in Boulder – decided to stay home for the week, but not tell anyone. We’ve had an awesome week hanging out, being completely anonymous, enjoying downtown Boulder (we’ve gone into Amy’s office every day to write and think), being together, and reading.
I wasn’t going to surface until tomorrow, but yesterday I read what I believe will easily qualify (at least in my book ranking system) as one of the best books of the year, if not the decade. I’m not sure what category to put it in – it fits equally nicely in memoir, business, philosophy, and self-help. The book is Chasing Daylight by Eugene O’Kelly.
Last year, O’Kelly was CEO of KPMG, and going 100 miles an hour when he was suddenly diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. He quickly comes to terms with the idea that he has less than 100 days left to live and takes immediate action. He determines to have the greatest possible existence during those last 100 days, systematically saying goodbye to all the people that have touched his life, trying to have as many “perfect moments” as possible, to live always in the present, and to chronicle the experience of dying as one of his last acts on this planet.
While the quality of the writing deteriorates as O’Kelly does, the power of the book steadily increases. I finished it in the waning light of day yesterday, O’Kelly’s favorite time on the golf course and the source of the key metaphor (“chasing daylight”) for the book. I read it in a room by myself, in total quiet, and found myself completely absorbed for the entirety of the book, which always signals that I’ve found something special.
O’Kelly isn’t perfect, nor does he try to be. But – he’s intensely real. The boundedness of this experience comes through in his writing and helps calibrate the experience of life. The answers (including mine) to the cliched question “what would you do differently if you knew you had 100 days” are usually trite. O’Kelly addresses it head on and really gives the reader something to think about.
Mortality – which we face every second of every day – is on naked display in this book. I learned a lot, even though I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my life and what I want to get out of each moment. When I read the Amazon reviews after I read the book, I was surprised by the bimodal nature of the reviews – they were either 5’s or 1’s. This was a 5 for me and a book that I recommend every “hard working, accomplishment driven person” read and ponder.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers just released their quarterly issue of Nextwave. The headline article is Web 2.0: The Internet subset formerly known as the Web and features comments from a number of people, including me, Bill Gurley (Benchmark), Andreas Stavropoulous (DFJ), Tim O’Brien (Microsoft), Chris Sacca (Google), Dick Costolo (FeedBurner), JB Holston (NewsGator), and Dave Sifry (Technorati). If you are a VC stats junkie, this issue also includes PWC’s Q4 and full-year 2005 MoneyTree Report.
I also showed up on a podcast last week via an interview done on The Podcast Roundtable by Martin McKeay and Jeremiah Owyang. The week before Martin had done a podcast interview with my long time friend Alan Shimel, currently the Chief Strategy Officer of StillSecure.
I woke up with a brutal cold yesterday so I spent the day today sleeping, drinking lots of fluids, being pampered by Amy, and reading mental floss. Fortunately, my good friend Jenny_the_bookstore_owner had sent me the publisher proof for Harlan Coben’s latest book Promise Me.
I love Coben’s books – he’s one of my top five mental floss writers (up there with Stephen Frey and Barry Eisler). As a special bonus, Coben revived an old character – Myron Bolitar – and his gang of cohorts including Win, Esperanza, and Big Cindy. Myron is a complex man (and Yoo-hoo lover) – made even more interesting by the six years that have passed since Coben last wrote a book that featured him. While everyone is a little older, their killer instincts – especially Win’s – are as sharp as always. Coben’s promise is a page turner – and he delivers.
Dad – Promise Me is in the mail – you’ll have it in a few days.